Man Found Illegally Boarding Ship to South Korea at Port of Oakland (18 United States Code 2199)

Rabin Nabizadeh
December 10, 2014

A man (name withheld to protect the accused) was recently discovered on a ship leaving the Port of Oakland.  This German national had evidently allowed his passport to expire and believed that he had no other way to get to South Korea to spend time with his wife, who is evidently pregnant with their child.  Authorities say that this man evidently rowed out to the ship in an inflatable boat he bought from a retail outlet that sells sporting goods.  He was charged with a federal crime, that of being a stowaway, though he insists that he bought a ticket from a gentleman in Chinatown for the amount of $500.

It sounds archaic, but illegally boarding a ship is a federal crime18 U.S. Code 2199 (“Stowaways on vessels or aircraft”) dictates that any person who boards a vessel intending to travel on that vessel, but does not have permission to do so can be charged with this particular violation of federal law.  In fact, an individual who is a stowaway could spend up to 5 years in federal prison for attempting to hitch a ride on a ship or airplane on which they do not belong.  If a stowaway has boarded a vessel with the intent of seriously harming someone on board, penalties rise to 20 years in a federal facility.

The question in the above case will be whether the German national actually believed that he had purchased a ticket in good faith.  The evidence against him, however, may rest mainly with the manner in which he reached the ship, which was, from some perspective, surreptitious.  It remains to be seen how this case will ultimately be handled.